5 Things I Bet You Didn’t Know (or maybe you do)

So, I’m reading this great book — An Uncommon History of Common Things by Bethanne Patrick and John Thompson– that’s filled with interesting facts and stories behind the invention of all kinds of items we use today from pizza to football to naming traditions, etc. I originally picked it up thinking it would be great if I needed to look up an unusual fact for a story I’m writing, but I’m now reading it from cover to cover.

Here’s some fascinating facts from the book about the implements we use to write:

1. The first “real” pencils were made in the 1500s in England, although the early Greeks used lead to make guide marks for “writing in ink.”

2. Egyptians wrote with “crude pens” as early as 4000 B.C.

3. Some of the first typewriter models were “the size of a piano.”

4. The first electronic digital computer was built in 1939.

5. Printing press technology had been in existence long before the printing press was developed. Movable type debuted in China in 1045.

Of course these are simple facts. The book explains the history of these objects and many others in more detail and in a way that is quite interesting. So, if you’re a writer or just a lover of facts or history, or need a gift for an inquisitive friend or child, I’d grab a copy of the book. You never know when you’ll need to know the history of Poker or guns or shoes or tattoos, etc.



  1. Janice, would love to read this book! I’m fascinated to find out about where things originated that come into play in our lives every day. The typewriter as big as a piano reminds me of the long ago days when I had a job backing up computers at night – and they were giant ones in a room all to themselves!

  2. Sounds like a great book. I’ll look for it. I’m certainly glad typewriters have shrunk to a manageable size. My husband’s been working on computers since the early sixties. He started with giant ones like Donna mentioned. Not only did they occupy an entire room, they had their own air conditioner.

  3. That book would also make a good Christmas gift.

  4. Another book that’s a great gift for writers is What’s What, a visual compendium of everyday objects. It’s a picture book with an incredible array of things with their parts labeled for reference. If you’ve ever been stumped by what to call that thingamijig on a boat or a pie or a sandal or just about everything it’s probably in there. And it’s really cheap right now on Amazon. (like a penny new)

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